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Defence

Depth of China’s poison tree farm

It’s time for the world to realise—and accept—that China’s much publicised and acknowledged development story is full of illegal, unethical and unfair practices.

Shreedharan Raman

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The doctrine of fruit of the poisonous tree is meant to remove illegally acquired evidence from negatively impacting a criminal defendant. Similarly, the same can be applied to China’s development story, which it achieved through illegal, unethical and unfair practices. A reality check is warranted here before accepting the growth is achieved fair and square.

Back in the 1950s, China was extremely poor. With WW2 just over and people were going through a revolution. A newborn country has more ‘josh’ as we call it. Just in that josh, the Communist Party of China started to make monumental mistakes within the first two decades of their formation. They could have built a beautiful and sustainable economy. With blessings of such beautiful neighbors. What seemed an empty canvas full of opportunity to paint a beautiful motif, now seemed tarnished. Be it invasion of Tibet, war with India, great leap forward, parting ways with USSR and subsequently Mongolia to name a few.

China then turned moderate in the 1970s, with Deng Xiaoping, who understood that China can’t rise without the help of neighbors. He started to work on the issue. He made peace as much as he could, however temporary it could be. And it did help China to ramp up the number of factories and heavy industries from zero to near monopoly in many fields. China is almost making everything for the World. Even it has monopolized supply of bamboo for incense sticks.

Anyone would admire the focused vision of Chinese leadership that they invested and made sure the ecosystem and Government machinery works towards the single goal of global dominance. Full credits to that. No second thoughts at all. But there are two key parameters they forgot: Ethics and honesty. In many ways, India was in a similar situation then. New country syndrome. Poor, rising aspirations and all the above that China faced. In fact, more than what China faced. As we had democracy, a diverse nation with no common interconnecting language. Different food habits, terrain, culture and weather and so on. We are more diverse within the Nation. Yet, India was fortunate enough to have quickly found a soul. Something united us as a nation. It was organic.

People connected across the country with some soulful connection. That seems missing in China. Some predicted a breakup of India in a few decades after partition. We proved that wrong. With all the complaints we might have, at the end of the day, our system still works. It might be very slow and seem inefficient. But it works. Whereas in China, it is one-way communication on what the party decides. Despite all our difficulties, we still play by established rules. World is now slowly beginning to discuss how China is into a different level of stealing intellectual property from Western countries. So, how does this work?

Perception & reality

Businesses that went to China since Deng Xiaoping, it was working wonders. They had little problem dealing with bureaucracy and so on. One-point to deal in Beijing and work gets done anywhere in China. Say, Shanghai or Chengdu or Guangdong. Over time, word did spread.

These businesspersons became quasi-spokesperson for China. Reality strikes a few years later. When they begin to realise what is happening. Big industries started seeing competitors. Chinese ones. Especially, those the big industries partnered with earlier. Making exact same components and products, at a fraction of the cost. Some went to Courts in China only to realise that the Chinese Courts and Judges are extended arms of the CPC and not independent. They had to let go for legal actions thereafter.

Legal but unethical

The story of China’s highspeed rail miracle is legal, but unethical. Everyone knows for sure how quickly China developed such a vast network of High-Speed Rail (HSR). Not many know how this was done quickly through shortcuts.

A decade ago, China was planning to create an HSR network across the country. One small problem: They didn’t have the technical expertise and know-how. So, they called international experts. Siemens was given an order to make 300 kmph train sets for China Railway Rollingstock Corporation (CRRC). These were cutting edge. Technology wise, up to date. Sweet order. None could avoid it. Just a catch. There’d be tech transfer from Siemens to CRRC.

Siemens did sign the deal, expecting not to lose a big market like China as they would need more trains. But, CRRC tricked Siemens. Leave alone going ahead and capturing bids from within China, CRRC started competing “head-to-head” with Siemens. This is all done by a single signature on tech transfer. Not sure if it would stand in Court of Law, in favor of China, elsewhere. On technology transfer, similar experiences happen for Alstom, Bombardier, Kawasaki. Now this is perfectly legal.

In European theater, to stop being potent competitors for China Rail and Rollingstock corporation (CRRC), it is reported that China even used diplomatic clout on European Commission to stop the politically contentious merger of Siemens — Alstom. This merger means the biggest competitor for CRRC, which still would be roughly half of what CRRC is currently. Proposed Siemens — Alstom merger points out how fractures are created by China. It triggered a political issue between Germany and France and they are talking to each other to calm the situation to find a way out.

Meanwhile, the Alstom — Bombardier deal worked out well, with a German interference as Alstom made some quick business moves to gain early anti-trust approval from European Commission. It is an entirely different story on why Germany is supporting China so much despite reservations from other European nations. Chinese use their car market to have that leverage over Germany. This is nothing but, economic militarisation through joint ventures, unethical reverseengineering, militarising trade.

 Illegal and unethical

Year 2006. Duke University, San Diego, United States of America. The (in)famous story of Liu Ruopeng who was investigated by the FBI for stealing intellectual property from Dr David Smith’s US Department of Defense funded laboratory. Dr Smith was into research about metamaterials that create an invisible cloak — which could make sure radar signals don’t pick objects that are covered by the cloak. Liu was doing his doctorate under Dr Smith who was researching.

 Liu ultimately got his PhD. But, after his expulsion from the research group. The FBI could do nothing beyond expulsion. Liu today is no ordinary man. He is dubbed to be the next Elon Musk. After he went back to China, he was rewarded. He started his own company. Liu is a billionaire already. Probably he would earn much more. His innovations might sound cool. Even today, the entrance of his office has a cloak monument. Highlight of this episode of stealing is that this research and lab of Dr Smith was being funded by the US Department of Defense. Imagine the amount of money, capability and resources needed to infiltrate such sensitive research projects.

Another incident. US Department of Justice released a statement on its website on July 30, 2020 about an Ohio woman Li Chen pleaded guilty today via video conference in US District Court to conspiring to steal scientific trade secrets and conspiring to commit wire fraud concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.

Per NationalPulse.com, Li Chen and Yu Zhou (her husband) were trying to steal secrets relating to Exosomes — which plays a key role in identification and treatment of various medical conditions including Liver Cancer. Zhou and Chen admitted to selling “isolation kits” through their company for “personal gain” in China. Highlight of this whole episode is, they got funds from Chinese Government — State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and National Natural Science Foundation of China.

As Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers put it, “Once again we see the People’s Republic of China (PRC) facilitating the theft of our nation’s ingenuity and hard work as part of their quest to rob, replicate and replace any product they don’t have the ability to develop themselves.” On the pattern he added, “Far from being an isolated incident, we see the PRC implicated in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases. This continued economic belligerence runs contrary to the values and norms that facilitate the success of our industries and countering it remains among our highest priorities.” Sixty percent of all trade theft cases happen in China.  Let that sink in. That’s how deep China has intruded into US companies, institutions and research projects.

In 2014, China passed a law which requires every Chinese citizen to cooperate in acts of Chinese intelligence agencies. In other words, there can’t be a more direct order for its citizens to co-opt in surveillance acts by the Ministry of State Security of PRC. To give the adequate human resource required, China uses those large numbers of tourists and students that it sends every year to many countries. Especially to the US, UK and Australia. To give an indication of the scale of it, China has about 3.7 lakh students in the US, 1.2L in the UK, 1.6L in Australia. All these students have an obligation to abide by the above legislation, if need be. Similarly, for tourists, act as “courier” to transfer back to China. Few weeks ago, some of these students were caught on camera participating in protests that happened in the US.

 To influence those high and mighty in power corridors, China invested heavily in key people. Take the case of Andy Purdy, Huawei’s Chief Security officer. He was a member of the White House team that drafted the US National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace (2003). Another example is how China’s propaganda is delivered at the doorsteps of politicians. As Republican Jim Banks said in a recent interview to Epoch Times, “It’s unbelievable to me. The China Daily, which is a state-run propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party, magically appears on the doorstep of every lawmaker on Capitol Hill. Imagine the impact it makes in the psyche of decision makers.

That’s not all. If you think, the US was the worst infected country by Chinese communists, think again. Because, Australia story would beat that. China conquered Australian land mass through silent invasion, without firing a single bullet. The largest among China’s poison tree farm in Indo-Pacific region is, Australia. The silent invasion has happened. Australia is battling it in various ways. (This article is the first part of a two-part series. second will appear tomorrow.)

Shreedharan Raman watches strategic moves by countries around the globe, especially China, and writes his opinions occasionally on shreedharan. com and can be contacted at write@shreedharan.com. 

Defence

A massive push for indigenous production of defence equipment

Under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the Defence Ministry has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the armed forces in the coming years.

Ashish Singh

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The Cabinet Committee on Security, in its meeting held on 29 July 2020, approved to convert Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), a subordinate office of Ministry of Defence, into one or more than one 100% Government-owned corporate entities, registered under the Companies Act 2013. The corporatisation of OFB will improve its autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies.

A new category of capital procurement ‘Buy [Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)]’ has been introduced in Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)- 2016 to promote indigenous design and development of defence equipment. It has been accorded top most priority for procurement of capital equipment. The ‘Make’ Procedure of capital procurement has been simplified. There is a provision for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government of India’s industry under Make-I category.

 In addition, there are specific reservations for MSMEs under the ‘Make’ procedure. Seperate procedure for ‘Make-II’ category (Industry funded) has been notified under DPP to encourage indigenous development and manufacture of defence equipment. Number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criterion, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry/ individual etc. have been introduced in this procedure. So far, 49 projects relating to Army, Navy & Air Force, have been accorded ‘Approval in Principle’, out of which 9 projects have already been issued Project Sanction Order for prototype development.

 Under ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign of Govt of India, Ministry of Defence (MoD) has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces in the coming years. This list includes some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters (LCHs), radars and many other items to fulfil the needs of our Defence Services.

 An innovation ecosystem for Defence titled Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been launched in April, 2018. iDEX is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/ funding and other support to carry out R&D  which has  potential for future  adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs. Under the iDEX scheme, a maximum of Rs 1.5 crore funding is available to a participant for development of a prototype.

 More than 700 start-ups participated in 18 problem statements pertaining to National Defence requirements, launched under 3 rounds of Defence India Start-up Challenges (DISC). 58 winners were announced after rigorous evaluation of applications by the High-Powered Selection Committees. Contracts have already been signed with several winners followed by release of tranches for several cases for prototype/ technology development.

 Government has notified the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ Model in May, 2017, which envisages establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with Indian entities through a transparent and competitive process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains. Government has notified a ‘Policy for indigenisation of components and spares used in Defence Platforms’ in March, 2019 with the objective to create an industry ecosystem which is able to indigenize the imported components (including alloys & special materials) and sub-assemblies for defence equipment and platform manufactured in India. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on “Mutual Cooperation in Joint Manufacturing of Spares, Components, Aggregates and other material related to Russian/Soviet Origin Arms and Defence Equipment” was signed during the 20th India-Russia Bilateral Summit in September, 2019.

 The objective of the IGA is to enhance the After Sales Support and operational availability of Russian origin equipment currently in service in Indian Armed Forces by organizing production of spares and components in the territory of India by Indian Industry by way of creation of Joint Ventures/Partnership with Russian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) under the framework of the “Make in India” initiative. 

  In February, 2018, Government decided to establish two defence industrial corridors to serve as an engine of economic development and growth of defence industrial base in the country. They span across Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu and across Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Offset guidelines have been made flexible by allowing change of Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) and offset components, even in signed contracts. Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now allowed to provide the details of IOPs and products after signing of contracts. In order to bring more transparency and efficiency into the Offset discharge process, “Offset portal” has been created in May, 2019. Defence Investor Cell has been created in February, 2018 in the Ministry to provide all necessary information including addressing queries related to investment opportunities, procedures and regulatory requirements for investment in the sector. Defence Products list requiring Industrial Licences has been rationalised and manufacture of most of parts or components does not require Industrial License. The initial validity of the Industrial License granted under the IDR Act has been increased from 03 years to 15 years with a provision to further extend it by 03 years on a case-tocase basis. 

Under the latest Public Procurement Order 2017, Department of Defence Production has notified list of 24 items for which there is local capacity and competition and procurement of these items shall be done from local suppliers only irrespective of the purchase value. An indigenization portal namely SRIJAN has been launched on 14.08.2020 for DPSUs/ OFB/Services with an industry interface to provide development support to MSMEs/Startups/Industry for import substitution. 

In May, 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing. Further,  Department for Policy of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry vide Press Note No. 5 (2016 Series), has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. Further, 44 FDI proposals/Joint Ventures have been approved for manufacture of various defence equipment, both in public and private sector. Government has brought in significant reforms to promote FDI in Defence sector in the country, to complement and supplement the domestic investment. Through FDI, domestic companies are benefited by way of enhanced access to supplementary capital and state-of-art-technologies, and also exposure to global managerial practices resulting in employment generation and accelerated growth of the sector. 

Review of FDI policy is an ongoing process and changes are made in the FDI policy regime, from time to time, to ensure that India remains an attractive investment destination. FDI in Defence Sector has been enhanced up to 74% through the Automatic Route for companies seeking new defence industrial license and up to 100% by Government Route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or  for other reasons to  be recorded. 

 The obligatory government approval for existing FDI approval holders / current defence licensees for change in equity / shareholding pattern up to 49%  FDI has been proposed to be replaced with mandatory declaration for the same within 30 days of change of equity / shareholding pattern. The proposals for raising FDI beyond 49% from such companies could also be considered with Government approval.

 Enabling MSMEs in expanding their base

 The ‘Make’ Procedure has been simplified with provisions for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government to India’s industry and reserving Government funded Make-I projects not exceeding development cost of Rs. 10 crore and procurement cost Rs. 50 crore per year for MSMEs. The industry funded Make-II Projects not exceeding development cost of Rs. 3 crore and procurement cost Rs. 50 crore per year have also been reserved for MSMEs.  iDEX is also aimed at supporting MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators etc provide them grants/ funding and other support to carry out R&D. Besides, approximately 11,000 MSMEs as vendors are engaged in supplying various items to OFB and Defence PSUs. To bring MSMEs into the defence supply chain  and thereby boost the self-reliance of the country in defence and also contribute towards defence exports market, DDP has made a scheme of promotion of MSMEs in defence. 

Under this scheme funds are provided to industry associations to organize seminars in different parts of the country. MSMEs are partnering in DRDO projects and also DRDO developed technologies are also being transferred to them. 

They are important partners in industry ecosystem for the production of DRDO developed products.Various initiatives have been taken to address issues of timely payments like implementation of TReDS in DPSUs. Regular interactions are taking place to settle the grievance of vendors at OFB. Defence Investor Cell has been opened in DDP to address the issues being faced by vendors especially MSME vendors.

 Non-Core items of OFB have been uploaded on GeM which would enable them to supply the items hitherto reserved for Ordnance Factories to the Armed forces. Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises implements various schemes and programmes for promotion and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) including defence sector MSMEs across the country. These include Prime Minister›s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries(SFURTI), A scheme for Promoting Innovation,   Rural   Industry  and  Entrepreneurship  (ASPIRE),  Credit Guarantee Scheme, Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Upgradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS), Technology Centre Systems Programme (TCSP), Micro and Small Enterprises-Cluster Development Programme (MSECDP), Procurement and Marketing Support Scheme etc. and also reviews and monitors the progress of the implementation of the Public Procurement Policy for MSEs Order, 2012.

 The Defence Offset guidelines have further paved the way for proactive participation of Micro, Small & Medium enterprises (MSME) of India by incorporating a scheme of multipliers of 1.5 for engaging MSME as Indian Offset Partners (IOP). There is no prescribed allocation/proportion between DPSUs and private sector. Efforts are, however, being made to create a level playing field between DPSUs and the private sector. 

Investment through FDI route

In May, 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing.  Further, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry vide Press Note No.5 (2016 Series)’, has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded.  Further, FDI in defence industry sector is subject to industrial license under Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and manufacturing of small arms and ammunition under the Arms Act, 1959.  As per the data furnished by 37 companies in Defence and Aerospace sector, so far (i.e. till June, 2020). FDI inflows of over Rs 2883 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sectors through automatic route.  Further, FDI inflows of over Rs.1849 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sectors after 2014 through automatic route. 

Corporatisation of OFB

 The Cabinet Committee on Security in its meeting held on 29.07.2020, has approved to convert Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), a subordinate office of Ministry of Defence, into one or more than one 100% Government owned corporate entities, registered under the Companies Act 2013.The Corporatisation of OFB will improve its autonomy, accountability and efficiency in Ordnance Supplies.On the issue of corporatization of OFB, the Federations of Defence Employees working in Ordnance Factories observed a Strike from 20/08/2019 to 25/08/2019. Strike marginally affected the normal production activities in all 41 factories for five working days. Normal production resumed across all factories from 26th August, 2019 onwards.The Department of Defence Production has been continually engaging with the Federations and Associations of Ordnance Factories with regard to their views on the said transformation. An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has been constituted under the chairmanship of Minister of Defence to oversee and guide the entire process of corporatisation of OFB, including transition support and redeployment plan of employees while safeguarding their wages and retirement benefits. 

Startups in Defence Sector

Government is making efforts to promote start-ups in the defence sector under ‘Aatmanirbhar Mission’ to localize the production of defence sector products. Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework, was launched by Department of Defence Production, with the aim to achieve self-reliance and to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace Sectors by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia. Under iDEX, the projects or problem statements are identified based on the requirements projected by the Armed Forces, OFB & DPSUs. 58 iDEX winners have so far been identified for 18 problem statements/challenges under three rounds of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC). 

Separate procedure for ‘Make-II’ category (Industry funded) has been notified under Defence Procurement Procedure to encourage indigenous development and manufacture of defence equipment. Number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criterion, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry including start-ups/individual etc. have been introduced in this procedure.DRDO has created eight Advanced technology centres across India to carryout research activities in the identified futuristic/new technology areas.

  These technology centres provide support to Academia to carry out directed research in the identified thrust areas related to defence applications.Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog has set up a total of 68 Incubation centres across the country. Some AIM incubators focus on areas closely associated with deep-tech, aerospace etc. CODISSIA Defence Innovation and Atal Incubation Centre is a specific incubator which focuses on Defence Innovations and start-ups. iDEX envisages to engage with existing Defence Innovation Hubs (defence related MSME clusters) and create new hubs where innovators can get information about needs and feedback from the services directly and create solutions for India’s major defence platforms. Nine Institutions have been identified and are working as partner incubators to support activities under iDEX.

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Defence

Boeing delivers SOCOM’s first next-gen Chinook helicopter

Ashish Singh

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Boeing is delivering new technologies and performance improvements to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with the Block II Chinook helicopter. Boeing’s Philadelphia team recently delivered the first MH-47G Block II Chinook to SOCOM on time. 

“This delivery marks a major step for the Chinook programme,” said Andy Builta, vice president and H-47 program manager. “The new Chinook will give US Special Operations Forces significantly more capability for extremely challenging missions and will enable them to conduct those missions on the future battlefield.” He added. The company is on contract for 23 more MH-47G Block II Chinooks, having signed a contract with SOCOM in July.

 Boeing has more than 4,600 employees in Pennsylvania supporting Chinook, the V-22 Osprey, MH-139A Grey Wolf and a number of services and engineering efforts. Including suppliers and vendors, Boeing’s activities support an estimated 16,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

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Defence

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is readied to fly to Vandenberg for launch

Ashish Singh

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Airbus space engineers are preparing the European ocean satellite “Coper- helicopter nicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich” for its journey to the Vandenberg launch site in California. Next week, the satellite will be loaded into a cargo plane at Munich Airport and flown to the US. The Airbus-built satellite is scheduled for launch on 10 November 2020. 

The Copernicus Sentinel-6 will carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography. The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map it, repeating the cycle every 10 days, with the mission lasting up to seven years. It will document changes in sea-surface height, record and analyse variations in sea levels and observe ocean currents. Exact observations of changes in sea-surface height provide insights into global sea levels, ocean sea state, ocean wind speed, the speed and direction of ocean geostrophic currents, and ocean heat storage. These measurements are vital for modelling the oceans and monitoring/predicting rises in sea levels. In addition, Sentinel-6 will provide measurements over large rivers and lakes in support of water management applications. 

The findings will enable governments and institutions to establish effective protection for coastal regions. The data will be invaluable not only for disaster relief organisations, but also for authorities involved in urban planning, securing buildings or commissioning dykes. Global sea levels are currently rising by an average of 3.3 millimetres a year as a result of global warming; this could potentially have dramatic consequences for countries with densely populated coastal areas. 

The Sentinel-6 mission is part of the European Union Copernicus Programme for the environment. This mission comprises two satellites and is being developed under Airbus’s industrial leadership. While it is a European mission, Sentinel-6 is a true example of international cooperation: it has been jointly developed by E SA, NASA, EUMETSAT and NOAA, with support from CNES. Each satellite carries a radar altimeter, which works by measuring the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to the surface and back again to the satellite. Combined with precise satellite location data, altimetry measurements yield the height of the sea surface. 

The satellites’ instrument package also includes an advanced microwave radiometer that accounts for the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, which affects the speed of the altimeter’s radar pulses. The satellite weighs approximately 1.5 tons. Starting with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, in November 2020, the Sentinel-6 satellites will collect satellite based measurements of the oceans’ surfaces, continuing a task that first began in 1992. The second Sentinel-6 spacecraft is then expected to follow in 2025.

 In January 2020, the satellite was renamed after Michael H. Freilich, who led NASA´s work in Earth science for many years. Sadly Michael Freilich passed away in August 2020.

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Defence

Russia’s big CCP Problem

Russia can spoil Chinese Communist Party’s overland ambitions. But as long as the West keeps Russia isolated, Moscow will be forced to deepen economic ties with Beijing.

Ashish Singh

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Kadri Liik calls them “the offended generation”: The generation of Russians who, post the Soviet breakup, had reposed faith in the West and had great expectations of fairness from the free world. But starting with the expansion of NATO and then the EU, this generation found that the realpolitik of the West was almost always at a cost to fledgling Russia. They are the reason that Crimea happened, and Crimea is central to the story that Russia today has a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) problem. 

On 19 February 1954, the peninsular Province of Crimea was transferred from the Russian Republic to the Ukrainian Republic, for administrative convenience. In 1991 (along with Ukraine’s Independence Referendum), and then again in another referendum of 1994, Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, but were not allowed to secede from Ukraine. Less than 3 months after the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an ongoing negotiation for Ukraine to enter the EU, and just one day after Western Powers had actually endorsed an accord recognising his legitimacy as President, he was ousted on 22 February 2014 by Ukranian Europhiles. Many events followed in response to that development. The 3rd Crimean Referendum was one such. And, as a result, Crimea reverted to Russia. Although the West had eagerly backed many other referendums by States opting to leave the Russian fold, they did not recognise this reversemovement referendum. No surprises there, but now comes the twist in the tale. 

Overtly, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remained neutral on Crimea in the UN, but in one-onone meetings, CCP covertly expressed solidarity with Ukraine against Russia. CCP used the divide to bolster its own presence in Ukrainian Business, but didn’t stop there. Even in the Sea of Azov, which has traditionally been considered to be a Russian lake, CCP waded into the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, offering dredging assistance. Russia has not taken kindly to this at all, which might explain Moscow’s alignment in the developing India-CCP border conflict.

 More important for Moscow, indications are now also emerging that CCP had actually stoked the West, behind the scenes, even as late as 2016, in painting Russia as the Centre-StageVillain of the World, using Crimea. By getting Russia and the West embroiled in quasi-conflict these last few years, CCP tied down the attention of both. More importantly, CCP got the West to isolate Russia. CCP couldn’t have asked for more. As Matthew Dal Santo puts it, ‘the West’s isolation of Russia has caused Moscow to acquiesce to an expanded Chinese presence it would once have resented’. And that is exactly why CCP played the Crimea card behind Russia’s back in every Western capital. There is increasing evidence that at about the same time that the UK became the loudest European mouthpiece against Russia in Europe, many of their political elite were actually being remotecontrolled from Beijing. The same suspicions surround many prominent politicians in the US, who were loud in their criticism of Russia. 

Crimea is not the first time that CCP has exploited fault-lines to draw benefit at Russia’s expense. Here is a short list of the top few. In the rise of CCP, ‘Deception’ has always been in unbroken flow. Embarking on undeclared but festering border skirmishes on the Amur River with USSR, Beijing played its masterstroke of a Soviet Bogey which made US geopolitical emotion towards CCP take a U-turn in 1968- 69, from outright hostility to golden amity: Nixon’s 1972 opening to Mao’s CCP thereafter put Beijing on the track to ascendency. Much later, at the nadir of Russian fortunes postbreak-up, when experts in every field were jobless overnight, CCP literally sucked away all the brains of Russia, and used them to build up what is now a formidable military-industrial base.

 In the era immediately after the Soviet break-up, CCP worked assiduously to replace Moscow’s influence in every part of the globe. Even though their success rate at that stage is moot, there are no doubts today that they have been successful in eating into what had traditionally been the Russian sphere of influence, which is naturally unnerving Moscow.

 Even in areas where balance of trade appears to favour Russia, matters are not hunky dory. Russia had remained CCP’s largest arms supplier from the 1990s till 2018, but the range of products have steadily reduced, till only niche items are still being imported. Every item that CCP bought, they also soon became self-sufficient in, jettisoning Russian sources and partners soon thereafter. CCP has unashamedly copied Russian military hardware, and today, CCP has surpassed Russia to become the world’s second largest arms producer. In nearly every dimension, CCP already towers over Russia. Russia can spoil CCP’s overland ambitions, but as long as the West keeps Russia isolated, Russia will be forced to deepen economic ties with CCP.

 Till the Wuhan pandemic struck, there was some people-to-people goodwill among Russians for the Chinese, but that too seems to be a thing of the past. In February, over one third of all Russians had become anti-CCP in their outlook. After Russia closed its land borders with China, CCP has not only had to protest Russian ‘discriminatory measures against ethnic Chinese’ but they have also faced huge losses for their companies inside Russia. Now, the Russians are astute diplomats. And good diplomats predict the future with uncanny accuracy. If a military altercation takes place — and the ‘if’ seems ever more likely to be a ‘when’, given that CCP is messing with too many nations — when a military altercation takes place with another country like Taiwan or Japan, the Russians know that if CCP comes up victorious, the next territorial target for CCP is Russia. This is almost axiomatic and Russia knows this: so whatever be the next altercation that CCP gets into, they must not come out on the top. 

While the Russians are astute diplomats, the CCP seems to have lost the ability to engage diplomatically; but the world must remain true to the traditional framework to give them an ability to reverse direction. And if they choose not to, then we must be prepared to work collectively to respond. As Australian MP, Dave Sharma says, ‘it is time to rehabilitate Russia, and time for bold statecraft led by the US but supported by all Western allies’. Indeed, Trump has already invited Russia, India, Australia and South Korea into the G7, despite opposition from countries such as Canada. 

The future is often difficult to predict, but in this case, it is certain that an ascendant CCP will lead to a bleak future for the rest of the world, especially for almost every one of CCP’s neighbours – Russia included. But will the West accept that Crimea happened for reasons of Russian insecurity and not ambition? On that could well depend the future of the World. Russia’s CCP problem is actually a part of the world’s CCP problem.

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Defence

Dragon is in for surprise from India

China needs to be reminded of ground realities of Ladakh, which is characterised by High Altitude Area to Super High Altitude Area terrain demanding extraordinary standard of physical endurance, a quality which reportedly is lacking in PLA soldiers who are mostly hailing from urban areas.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd.)

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India-China border tensions flare up

The old proverb, “Empty vessels make the most noise” fits aptly on Hu Xijin, editor- in-chief of Global Times (GT), China. Following the Foreign Minister-level talks, Xijin tweeted that “PLA is prepared to strike against Indian troops.” He went on to add that PLA was ready to strike a heavy blow to Indian troops. The statement was followed by a series of articles indirectly threatening India to acquiesce to Chinese stand or else face the consequences which would be detrimental to Indian interests. Some excerpts from a GT article are, “India has no chance of winning the LAC war.” Likewise, another ex- tract from the same article reads, “We must remind the Indian side that China‘s national strength, including its military strength, is much stronger than India’s… If a border war starts, India will have no chance of winning.”

Selective memory

China needs to be reminded of ground realities of Ladakh region, which is characterised by High Altitude Area (HAA) to Super High Altitude Area (SHAA) terrain demanding extraordinary standard of physical endurance, a quality which reportedly is lacking in PLA soldiers who are mostly hailing from urban areas. While the Chinese media continues to target India through information war by highlighting their victory over India in 1962, it fails to recollect the humiliating defeat of 1967. PLA suffered 340 killed and 450 injured at the hands of Indian Army. In comparison, 88 Indian Soldiers were killed in action and 163 injured. Also, it has glibly blanked out the severe blow inflicted by Indian Army on PLA soldiers in Galwan clashes. As per US intelligence reports, 35 soldiers including several officers of PLA were killed/injured in the incident. Some sources peg this number at 45.

The Fallacy of Type 15 Light Tanks: It has been flaunting its light Tank Type 15 as the game changer in Ladakh but seems to have overlooked that tanks are of very limited value in the rugged HAA and SHAA mountains. Light footed all pervasive Infantry with its missiles and rockets will play merry hell with the thinly armoured so called light tanks of China. Every fold of the ground in the Indus and Spanggur valley will become an obstacle for the Type 15 tanks. We must also not forget that it is a challenge to operate and maintain these tanks at SHAA of Ladakh due to the extreme cold climate. It is no brainer that India has an edge over China in this domain as well. Moreover, Type 15 tanks weigh 33 tons and when fully loaded would touch 35 tons. By no stretch of imagination, they can be termed as light tanks. The slow moving tanks will be dead ducks for our infantry men. Further, India also has been able to induct its T72 and T90 tanks in the region. Moreover, we must not forget that Type 15 tanks of the Chinese do not have any battle experience unlike the Indian T 72 and T 90s. Combination of Infantry and T 72 will cause havoc in the Chinese camp for sure.

Battle Hardy and Seasoned Indian Troops: Someone also needs to re- mind the Chinese of the fate PLA met in Vietnam in 1979. When faced with battle hardened soldiers like that of India and Vietnam, Han soldiers predominantly hailing from urban areas will wilt under pressure. The Battle of Pork Chop Hill with Vietnam seems to have faded from the memory of PLA Commanders. Chinese do not seem to consider that Himalayas have a way of teaching a lesson to armies that disregard its might especially when confronted with highly spirited, motivated and battle-scarred soldiers from India. Battle worthiness of Indian soldiers is unmatched in comparison to China. Indian Army has been fighting an ongoing proxy war with Pakistan for the last three decades in J&K. It is successfully operating on the highest battlefield of the world Siachen since the mid-80s and fought three successful wars post 1962. Its valour on the super high altitude Kargil Mountains where even walking is a challenge leave aside fighting with full battle loads remains unmatched by any army in the world. What makes the Indian army stand apart from the others is its strong regimental spirit, absolute loyalty towards the nation and never say die spirit. On the contrary, chocolate soldiers of China have never seen a conflict since 1979. That India will win easily is a foregone conclusion which is not based on nationalistic rhetoric but on irrefutable and logical military arguments enumerated in succeeding paragraphs.

Logistics infrastructure

Estimated Current Force Levels: As per some open source reports, China has amassed over two Divisions in the Sector. Further based on the reported movement of vehicles in the last few weeks opposite the Ladakh Sector, we may safely assume that China would enhance the numbers to 3 to 4 Divisions. It has also inducted additional tanks, artillery, and aircrafts opposite us. However, are they prepared logistically? We also need to consider that China does not mobilize such large troops in this sector as a matter of regular practice. They were forced to do so as a reaction to an unexpected level of resistance displayed by the Indian Army digging its heels duly supported by national leadership which did not buckle down to Chinese pressure. Hence, there would be a need to undertake logistics preparation before the troops can be launched into operations. Is the available time – frame and the exist- ing infrastructure adequate to undertake a pre-winter operation extending into the harsh winters of Ladakh? A dispassionate analysis of Chinese logistics capability will provide the correct answer to this question.

Availability of Roads and Logistic Staging Areas: China has built six logistic bases that support the Ladakh Region along the sole road artery [G219] that feeds the region. These are starting from the north Zaidullah [Can support two Divisions], Dahong Luitan [Can support two Divi- sions], Rudok [Can support one Division], Shiquanhe [Can support one Division], Kangsiwar [Can support one Division] and Noh [Can support one Division].

These logistic bases are connected by radial roads emanating from G219 to nine forward staging areas. The forward staging areas are starting from the North, TWT, Piu, Khurnak Fort, Dorje Kunjam, Maldo, Gar Gungsa (GordZong), Tashigang and Nupuk. These staging areas are 80- 150 km from the main road artery G219 and capable of supporting two Brigades to a Division. From the forward staging areas, multiple roads are available to support the forward troops. On the face of it, the logistic infrastructure appears flawless and well planned. However, a careful analysis will reveal several constraints in the Chinese logistics supply chain.

Firstly, the entire logistics is based on a single road artillery G 219. Further, large distances lead to greater turnaround time upto these mother depots. Hence, they need greater time to stock. Secondly, G 219 though claimed by China to remain open throughout the year, as per some defence experts is prone to major closures sometimes extending to 10 to 14 days due to harsh weather conditions during the winters. Thirdly, while the connectivity between the forward staging areas to forward troops is good, the forward staging areas themselves are connected by mostly single roads from G 219. This restricts the Chinese logistics supply chain between mother bases on the G 219 and the Forward Staging areas. Fourthly, the nine forward staging areas are a choke point and ideal targets for IAF to disrupt their supply chain. Fifthly, it also necessitates sequential application of forces along these radials. On the other hand, India has multiple connectivity to the Ladakh sector now. Although these roads close during winter, with construction of the Atal tunnel and another all- weather road from Darcha to Leh, this problem has been permanently taken care of. Further roads forward of Leh have now been upgraded and are open throughout the year. These roads only see closure for a very – very short duration due to heavy snowfall. In addition, the Indian air heads in the Ladakh region remain operative almost throughout the year.

Forward Road Connectivity: China has developed five laterals in its most vulnerable and highly sensitive Aksai Chin area. First being to Depsang Plains (areas of PP 10, 11, 11A, 12 & 13). Second to Galwan Valley (PP 14). Third to Hot Springs/Gogra (PP 15 & 17A). Fourth to Pangong Tso North Bank (till Finger 4) and fifth to Pangong Tso South Bank (almost till opposite of Finger 4, where an additional road from Rudok to Spanggur also exists). India with its revised policy is hastening rapid border
infrastructure development. Activation of the DBO airfield and completion of the DSDBO Road, and connectivity in other sectors is unsettling the Chinese. The Chinese see the development of our border road infrastructure as a threat to Aksai Chin. In short, it is advantage India when we superimpose our better fighting capability both by ground forces and the AF.

Air Bases: Seven active air bases are located in Xinjiang and Tibet that will come into play for operations against India. These are Hotan, Gar Gunsa, Kashgar, Hoping, DkonkaDzong, Linzhi and Pangat. Reports suggest that all these airbases have been active in the recent past suggesting that China is still short of being fully ready to take on India in a conventional face off for the time being. Further, given the altitude of these airfields fighters as well as the transport aircrafts will suffer a major load penalty. On the other hand, Indian Aircrafts will take off from air fields located in the plains and would be able to deliver greater TNT on the Chinese. Adding to the problem of high altitude are the large distances of Chinese air bases from the forward staging areas, which will pose a serious challenge in maintaining the forward troops. India on the other hand will operate over shorter distances with forward air heads being much closer to the forward troops. So what India lacks in numbers is compensated in better operating conditions and capabilities? China is conscious of this differential and hence eager to seek a diplomatic solution to the current face off, a fact substantiated by its eagerness to seek RM and EAM level talks with India during the SCO summit to resolve the current face off.

Weapons Equipment and Armaments: The common perception created by numerical data may give an impression that China has an edge on this issue. However, India has been quietly working towards building its stocks and making up its deficiencies to sustain a conflict in harsh and active winters from the time current face off commenced with the Chinese. It has been taking steps to make sure that our troops are fully geared and equipped to face the challenges posed by an adversary blinded by simplistic numerical comparisons.

Game not over till last ball

India is a peace-loving nation and firmly believes in peaceful growth of the entire world in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. But if forced to go to war it will not hesitate to fight as it is geared to meet all contingencies. While India and China may not be at par in overall comprehensive national power calculated by social scientists and inter- national relations scholars, intangibles such as human factors, dedication, commitment, and local conditions have the potential to alter the outcome of a military conflict. Locational advantages, external support, terrain and weather conditions if exploited well by a country will produce unexpected results. India enjoys that advantage in Ladakh and its leadership at the national level and military at the operational level is will- ing and fully geared to do so. In comparison, Xi appears driven by personal ambition of being the next great leader of China after Mao even if it means putting his country in danger of losing its hard earned position in the comity of nations.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd) has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in India and in the UN as Military Observer. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion, Brigade and a Division in Jammu and Kashmir. He is currently Professor Emeritus Defence Studies at Gujarat Raksha Shakti University.

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Defence

Indian Army cares for its bravehearts

Ashish Singh

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We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.

Braveheart Late Sub Gandhi Ram Rajbongshi of Assam Regt hailing from Mangaldoi in Darrang District lost his life while serving the nation along the northern borders on 18 December 2000, leaving behind his wife Pabitri Rajbongshi along with a 15-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. The complete responsibility of upbringing of the family was onto the shoulders of Pabitri Rajbongshi who took on this responsibility as a challenge and acted as an iron lady. She single-handedly raised both her children and helped them pursue their education in the best of schools and colleges possible. Subsequently in the year 2011, her elder daughter Geetanjali got married while her son was still undergoing schooling. In 2018, again a tragedy struck this brave lady of Assam when her son met with a bike accident on 13 June 2018.

The injuries sustained by her son Gagan Rajbongshi were severe and he was hospitalised for over a month for undergoing various minor operations and also facial re-constructive surgery. The total cost of his treatment was around Rs 12 lakh. Pabitri Rajbongshi, as strong as ever, again took over the responsibility of the family and helped her son by providing him the best medical treatment possible. The family wanted to claim the medical expenditure from government but was unable to receive any financial help as they were not registered and availing the ECHS facility.

At this time of need, the Indian Army rose to the occasion, in accordance with its commitment to ensuring welfare and social security of veterans and “veernaris”; the local Indian Army unit en- sured release of one-time grant of Rs 5 lakh from Army Central Welfare Fund (ACWF) to help and support Pabitri Rajbongshi. This reflects the bond which still exists within the organisation, always looking after the ones who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation and never ever forgets their sacrifice.

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